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Carpenter ants are considered the number two wood-damaging pest in the United States. Carpenter ants are 1/4- to 1-inch long, and like all ants are highly evolved social insects, with different castes making up a colony. All castes have three distinct body parts – head, thorax and abdomen. Swarmers have clear wings approximately the same length as their body.
There are six different species of carpenter ants that will infest wood. The one found in this region of the United States is Campanotus Pennsylvanicus. Carpenter ants do not eat wood or use cellulose for food, but will eat almost anything else. They prefer protein in spring and carbohydrates in the fall, and prey on other insect populations around flowers, such as aphids. Carpenter ants will forage up to 100 yards, and are very active at night.
Carpenter ants need high moisture (near 100%) to maintain a reproducing colony. They need a source of liquid water to maintain health, and are usually found in association with high moisture and water-damaged wood. They build their nests in chambers that they have excavated and dropped in "sawdust" from the nest opening.
Workers have a life span of four to five years. Only colonies over 10 years will have matured enough to generate reproductives. Reproductives can break off to form "satellite colonies" of up to 1,500 individuals and can invade or re-invade a structure overnight.